The World Millwork Alliance (WMA) continued its annual virtual conference yesterday, and as was the case with prior sessions, the speakers gave those in the moulding and millwork segments an abundance of valuable information. Two speakers from Stifel Investment Services gave economic, market and merger and acquisition updates, also addressing the upcoming election.

Michael O’Keeffe, chief investment officer, showed a variety of data and charts to illustrate some predictions involving the presidential, as well as House and Senate elections. One such chart (see top chart at left), conveyed just how important the economy and healthcare is to voters.

“The race remains a bit of a toss-up,” he stated. “Things are leading Biden’s way but as a math person I always say if you have a 44% chance of something happening, that is a big probability.”

But no matter who is elected, O’Keefe said, “Once things settle down, that will be good for the market next year.”

John McNamara, managing director who leads the building products sector, pointed out that merger and acquisition (M&A) activity came to a screeching halt in April, although there were some activities in process before COVID-19. Others were postponed until the market improved.

“We saw some signs of life in the May timeframe and activity level picked up,” he said. “They moved forward in a more virtual environment. There is a backlog of activity, and some of those that were put on hold will come back in 2021.”

Other good news he reported included a healthy residential repair and remodeling market, “a new sustainable normal” and housing starts.

“New construction should continue to benefit from millennials and the new housing formation … This all means more windows, doors, decking and trim ….,” he said.

Recession Proof Selling

Earlier in the day Bradley Hartmann, president of The Behind Your Back Sales Co., addressed a major barrier that companies face due to COVID-19—and how to combat it.

“COVID-19 has removed the ability to do what we have always done—to get in front of the customer and sell,” he said.

He addressed everything from how to grow market share, articulating a company’s value, and how to negotiate—especially when it comes to price. In fact, he said one of the items sales reps should ask while prospecting is: “Do you buy solely on price?”

“If they say no, say: ‘That’s wonderful can I hold you to that?’” Hartmann suggested.

He also talked about the importance of selling offensively as opposed to playing defense, then brought on a few industry experts to join in the conversation, including: Tim Lyons, vice president of sales at Brockway-Smith company;  John Sewall, CEO of the Detering Co.; and Mac Mayberry, vice president of ECMD Distribution Co.

Sewall talked about the importance of knowing your pain points.

“If we have learned anything this year it’s how to be flexible and pivot,” he said.

The experts agreed, however, that flexibility doesn’t always have to relate to pricing.

“You have to have faith and confidence in your value proposition,” said Lyons. “Many times you are better off walking away. You have to be prepared to walk away.”













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